Sudden Page Removals Threaten Facebook As Music Marketing Tool

This guest post from Moses Avalon originally appeared on his Moses Supposes blog. As a producer and engineer of Grammy award-winning artists, Moses earned several RIAA Platinum awards. He's also the author of two top selling music industry reference guides: Million Dollar Mistakes and Confessions of a Record Producer.

image from www.google.com This week The Next Web.com posted a alarming story of how several prominent Facebook pages were deleted for unspecified copyright infringement complaints. The episode gave a rare window into the mind of Facebook, their polices and how easy the gift of a free fan-magnet can have serious hidden costs for artists.

How would you like to wake up one morning and check your Facebook page to see that you’ve gone from 10,000 fans– to zero? Scary? It could happen quite easily if someone was to complain that your page was infringing on their copyright. You may ask, wouldn’t the complainant need proof? No. In fact, according to the recent events re: the Ars Technica incident, you don’t even need a Facebook account.

One anonymous complaint is all it took to sentence several prominent Facebook fan pages to sleep with the fishes. These pages were allegedly posting infringing work and/or promotional links to copyrights they did not control. In the speed of a mouse-click, their fans, data, email logs and all evidence of their Facebook existence, vanished. Facebook didn’t specify what items were infringing or tell the creators of the removed pages who the complaints came from. Their accounts were just GONE, with no human to whom an appeal could be made.

Now, to artists this might seem like a bonanza. Facebook–an ISP–giving the heavy hammer against infringement to creators of content, but upon closer examination, all is not rosy.

If Facebook is going to take a zero-tolerance policy about alleged infringement, regardless of degree or investigation, artists could end up in a potentially worse situation than when ISPs turned a blind eye to copyright issues. How so?

MUSIC MUGGINGS

Not focused upon much in the main-stream media, is the fact that record labels and artists can have intense rivalries. Extreme cases are stories like the East Coast/West Coast beef of the rap world that took the lives of artists Biggie Smalls and Tu Pac, but many other animosities exist that are far more subtle.

Some famous songwriters, for example, disapprove of certain artists and enforce their own interpretation of the compulsory license and fair use provisions in the Copyright Act to shut down legal covers of their songs.

Many demos use un-cleared audio samples temporarily as well as bits of melodies, guitar riffs as part of the creative process.  In fact, the artist development process is rife with corner-cutting infringements that are necessary to grease the wheels of progress. But, with Facebook as enforcers, every copyright-commando has a weapon that requires only a keyboard and a beef to road-block a developing product.

  • Acts, fighting over logo design or a group name in a territory, could use an anonymous complaint to suspend or completely remove their rival’s account.
  • A label, could agree to license a sample to another label for a test release, then “change their mind,” after its posted for review.
  • Authors of hits can object to a badly recorded versions of their “masterpiece.”

In each case, such content owners could bypass the expensive and slow legal process with an simple infringement complaint to Facebook, and instantly vaporize the many fans an emerging artist worked so hard to aggregate on the Social Network.

WHO IS IMMUNE?

No one. Most every form of pop-music uses melodies, samples, and components of previous sound recordings. It’s virtually unavoidable, especially if you’re producing rap, R&B pop or hip hop, where samples or a “collage”of  tracks are a part of your creative process.

If removal of a fan page and all its valuable data is probable, with only an email-based appeal process, then more transparency is needed in the court of Facebook.

For a company that has built their $50 Billion dollar value on content submitted by emerging artists and average Joes (who do not understand intellectual property) a more precise method of determining the actionability of infringement accusations should be a priority.

Until that time relying on a Facebook account for street-cred or building a fan-base might be mistake. Many PR and marketing gurus have warned about this in the past, and the ones who have been using FaceBook as the tent-poll of their methods now know why. One PR friend of mine put it this way, “Everyone is rethinking the big blue F.”

Have you or some artist you know had their Facebook page removed due to infringement accusations? Speak out.


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